SINGAPORE — Sharing one’s treasures can be straightforward, but it takes more and is more crucial to share one’s time and talent to help others, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing said last night.
“Because it really takes that bit of extra within us … to take it upon ourselves to spend our time, our effort and talent to help lead those who might have the least, the little, the lame, the lost, to help them walk through the dark valleys of life,” he said.
Three “silent heroes” doing just that — quietly making a difference to society — were recognised yesterday at the annual Silent Heroes Award ceremony, chosen from 38 nominees this year.
The ceremony, organised by the Hillview Civilians Sports Club, is in its fourth year, and Mr Chan, the guest of honour, said the work of the award recipients was “anything but silent”.
“The work that you’ve demonstrated, to show us how we can do justice to our blessings and in turn bless others, is priceless. It’s in no way silent,” he added.
Among the three recipients was Institute of Mental Health (IMH) senior case manager Gemma Angela Fernandez, who turns 52 next week. She won the award in the Outstanding Adult Category.
Even when her patients sought her help for things beyond her job scope, she would tap her network to provide the help they needed, which is why she was nominated.
She has, for example, helped to buy groceries and furniture, refurbish a one-room rental flat for one of her patients and helped them to look for jobs.
“It’s no challenge at all … It’s something that’s right, and I’m a phone call away,” said Ms Fernandez, whose official duties involve visiting her patients at their homes to see how they are coping.
“I look at them as I go to their houses, and I try to figure out what their needs are … (I’ll ask), do you need this, do you need that?”
It has always been “her desire to want to help”, said Ms Fernandez, who joined the IMH in 2009 and handles about 100 to 150 patients at any time. And she is glad for the chance to do so in the community.
“It gives me more leeway to actually meet people in the community and … go into their houses to know what exactly they have and don’t have,” she added.
She is also one of the four co-founders of The Tent, a residential home set up in 2001 for troubled adolescent girls.
While Ms Fernandez no longer works there, she continues to be a “surrogate mother” to the girls she used to help.
The other two award recipients were Ms Oh Siew May, who gives inspirational speeches at schools despite having cerebral palsy, and Mr Atul Ramesh Deshpande, who provides free yoga training to improve people’s well-being.
In his speech, Mr Chan defined nationhood as people’s desire to continue to be here “despite all the ups and downs we may face together”.
And the work of past and present award recipients have contributed to building a better country and a “nation with a heart”.